How to save hardwood floor from water damage?

repairing water damaged hardwood floors

It’s no secret that beautiful hardwood flooring is expensive and high-maintenance.

Apart from routine staining, polishing, waxing, and regular cleaning, homeowners must ensure that hardwood floors are completely dry at all times to avoid unsightly streaks and water spots. On that note, drying the floors after mopping can help retain their appearance.

Considering how a little moisture from a wet mop can compromise the look of your wooden floors, imagine what inches of standing water will do. And if you live in hurricane or flood-prone areas, you may have experienced the additional disaster of water-damaged hardwood floors.

Moreover, plumbing issues, such as a burst pipe, an overflowing toilet, or broken washing machines can wreak havoc if water starts flooding parts of the house. And, if left unattended, these problems can turn into serious cases involving mold, bacteria, and other health hazards.

So, before there is any more significant damage, follow our guide and save your hardwood floors today.

How To Repair Water-Damaged Wood Floors

Before we get into the guide, there are a few tools that you should prepare in advance. Considering how accidental leaks and natural disasters come unannounced, ensure that you have these pieces of equipment at home at all times.

So, to remove the water, you will need rubber gloves, a bucket, a shop vacuum, a squeegee wiper, a stiff brush, and an absorbent cloth. Additionally, you can use a mild detergent, a disinfectant, or trisodium phosphate for cleaning purposes. And although not necessary, a dehumidifier can help accelerate the drying process.

Step-By-Step Guide To Prevent Hardwood Floor Water Damage

Step 1

First off, you must find the source of excess water, whether it is water overflowing from the bathroom, burst pipes, or a door opening. You must block the entry of more water before you proceed with the draining and drying process.

Next, remove all the furniture once you are sure that no more water will enter your room or home. Ideally, you want to dry them in your porch or backyard under the sun. However, if you live in an apartment, you can lay down a sheet of plastic in a dry room or floor and arrange the wet pieces of furniture on it.

At the same time, remove any carpets covering the hardwood flooring as wet carpets and padding are breeding grounds for mold and foul odors. Moreover, soaked carpets can quickly become discolored and compromise the sheen of the wood flooring underneath.

Step 2

Now, using a water vacuum or shop vacuum on the “wet mode,” you want to absorb as much of the water as you can from the entire floor. Moreover, you can use a squeegee wiper to collect water in a corner so that the vacuum can suck up as much excess moisture as possible.

Alternatively, you can hire local mitigation services equipped with the skills and specialized equipment for the job. However, if you live in a disaster-prone area, these professionals may not be available for weeks as the demand for their services skyrockets after a hurricane or flood.

Usually, hired specialists will remove individual boards or drywall to check for water damage. This step is especially crucial for excessively water-damaged floors to prevent mold growth and wicking of the wooden floors.

That said, drywall and hardwood flooring absorb water like a sponge, and the excess moisture may seep deep. So, it is best to keep vacuuming the wood flooring even after pools of water disappear from the surface. In fact, you may be able to see the vacuum hose suction pulling in water from invisible pores on the hardwood floor long after they seem dry.

Step 3

If you see any signs of mold, you must treat the area as soon as possible. Apart from mold removal, we recommend performing this step as a preventative measure against future mold growth.

All you have to do is clean the hardwood floors with a mild detergent or non-sudsing disinfectant. Additionally, you can treat moldy parts with a solution of trisodium phosphate mixed with water. Then, scrub the affected areas with an abrasive cleaner or stiff brush, rinse with clean water, and wipe the surface with a cloth.

And if you detect mold growth under the paint on wood floors, you will have to strip off the layer of paint or finish that acts as a barrier. After this, you can follow the same steps for mold remediation and dry the affected area.

Step 4

Once you’ve removed most of the visible surface water, open the windows and allow the natural airflow to dry the floor. However, it is best to keep doors and windows shut if the humidity is higher outdoors. In such a case, you can place a dehumidifier in the room to speed up the drying process. And make sure to limit the entry of household members if the water-damaged wood floors are in high traffic areas.

You can also turn on the air conditioner and ceiling fans. And if you are working with box fans, strategically placing them in front of windows may increase cross-ventilation. On a side note, do not use heaters to dry up the space as a warm and wet environment may promote mold and mildew growth.

And if the hardwood floor water damage is on a higher level, you should check the subfloor ceilings and floors for signs of water. Here, you might have to place additional fans or an extra humidifier in the room underneath. Also, you can make a small hole in the ceiling to let moisture content escape and repair it once the entire process is finished.

Step 5

Check for mold or mildew growth once the wood floor seems visibly dry. You may have to treat any affected areas again or call a specialist for more severe cases. These professionals may have to remove specific floorboards that cannot be salvaged.

On that note, parts of the hardwood flooring may continue to swell and buckle even after performing the proper steps and need to be removed to prevent further water damage. So, before sanding down the wood floor, you should look for signs of “cupping.”

In simple words, “cupping” occurs when the wood floors absorb too much moisture, expand, and become bent. Also, convex or concave floorboards may indicate that the wood floors are still damp on the bottom.

Unfortunately, heavily cupped floorboards cannot be sanded down, and you must inevitably remove any floorboards that are lifting in places. However, heavy sanding with an orbital sander may help salvage areas with minor damage. Usually, a quick response and a less severe moisture problem can prevent the issue of cupping.

Step 6

Most hardwood flooring material may take up to four weeks to be free of excess moisture. The duration could go up to eight weeks, depending on the damage. To be on the safe side, it is best to use a moisture meter to check that the wood floors are fully dry.

Here, you must remember that the moisture content in the hardwood floors may vary, so it is best to test multiple areas. On average, the moisture level should be between six to nine percent, after which the hardwood flooring can be sanded. Not waiting long enough for the floors to dry means they will not cure adequately and will thus require a second round of refinishing.

Step 7

Hardwood flooring with polyurethane finishes needs to be sanded and retreated as excess water wears down the product. Luckily, most insurance companies cover this process, so don’t forget to check with your insurance provider.

And if you’re a seasoned DIYer, you can sand the entire flooring, paying extra attention to the cupped areas. Here, you may need to pull out floorboards and weave in extra pieces of wood. Finally, you can buy an appropriate hardwood floor finish and treat the area as per the instructions provided on the label.

As for laminate flooring, you will almost always have to replace the flooring material. Like particleboard, laminate wood resembles solid hardwood, but its composition is much more vulnerable to water damage as it is made from wood pulp.

Preventative Measures To Protect Hardwood Flooring

Speed Is Key

The best way to prevent hardwood floor water damage is to act fast. Indeed, the first 24 hours after the wood floor comes into contact with water is the most critical. And depending on how fast you get rid of excess moisture, most of the wood floor can be sanded and refinished to regain its original look.

Rugs And Mats

Unless you are dealing with copious amounts of water after a hurricane or flood, there are a few ways to prevent wood floor water damage from splashes and spills. For instance, you can place a doormat near the front door to absorb moisture from muddy and wet shoes. Similarly, a mat under pet bowls and rugs can catch splashing water on the kitchen and bathroom floor.

Regular Maintenance

Keeping a regular check on your pipes and fixtures is the best way to prevent surprise flooding due to plumbing issues. On that note, cracks are the first sign of broken pipes and require urgent attention.

At the same time, remember to reseal hardwood floors every few years to add a protective layer against moisture-related damage.

Cleaning Methods

Regular cleaning is a must to retain the elegant and bright look of hardwood floors. On that note, dirt buildup left for a long period can lead to bacteria, mold, and mildew growth.

At the same time, hardwood material is highly vulnerable to liquid and water damage, so ensure that you only use a damp cloth instead of a sopping wet mop. Also, make sure that you use a compatible disinfectant that won’t create suds when scrubbed into moldy areas.

Nevertheless, it is best to dry your wood floors with an absorbent cloth after cleaning them.

Final Words

Despite its high maintenance requirements and installation costs, many homeowners prefer hardwood flooring because of its elegant appearance. Apart from instantly sprucing up a room for a cozy ambiance, hardwood flooring increases your property value.

And considering how replacing hardwood flooring is an expensive ordeal, repairing and preventing water damage may be your only option. So, go ahead and follow our instructions to retain the original charm of your house.

Need professional help when it comes to water damage restoration in Stafford VA? Contact us and get a quote now.